High Tech Is Great, But Don’t Forget High Touch


I took my aunt for a doctor’s appointment today at a state of the art facility*, and it was one of the worst health-care related experiences I have had, and I wasn’t even the patient, but merely an observer.

It started off even before we stepped foot into the building; it seemed like the only way to drop someone off at the front door was to use valet parking, which I am not a fan of; I’m perfectly capable of parking my own car. The valets were nice enough, but I would have preferred to have had the choice to drop my aunt at the front door, and then park my own car. That may have been an option, but it certainly wasn’t obvious if it was.

(You may be thinking – valet service at a doctor’s office? – and yes, it is crazy).

Once we got into the doctor’s office, it was by far one of the nicest medical offices I have seen in terms of the furniture and the woodwork, and also one of the largest. Off the top of my head I would estimate that there were probably 60 seats for patients to sit in while they were waiting.

Anyway, when we got to the front desk, there were three women sitting behind it, and on the counter there was a computer monitor. The monitor had a sign indicating that you used the computer to check in, which seemed like a good use of technology as opposed to signing your name on to a sheet of paper. The sign-in process took less than 30 seconds, but not once did any of the women acknowledge our presence by saying, “Welcome to *******” or “We’ll be with you in a moment.” They didn’t seem terribly busy, just talking among themselves.

We then sat down to wait, and after a couple of minutes one of the women yelled my Aunt’s last name, which seemed kind of impersonal. When my Aunt got over to the desk, the woman behind the counter never asked “How are you doing today?”, which seems like Customer Service 101, particularly for a doctor’s office.

As it turned out, we had gotten the appointment time wrong, which was totally our fault, and certainly not the fault of the doctor’s office. We showed up two hours after the scheduled appointment, and unfortunately they were not able to see her today.

My Aunt, who is almost 80, was upset about having to reschedule. She has been in quite a bit of pain for quite some time and was hoping that this appointment would either provide some relief from the pain or at least create a plan to relieve the pain.

You would think that with all of the technology that this doctor’s office apparently had, that they would be able to reschedule an appointment right then and there, but that did not happen. The woman behind the desk handed her a card and said here is the number you need to call to reschedule. Are you kidding me??

And while my Aunt was having this brief conversation, another older woman came in, having a little difficulty walking, and looking not quite sure if she was in the right place. The woman behind the desk asked if she could help her (shocking, I know). I could not hear what the older woman said, but the woman behind the counter told her she could take a seat in the waiting room, and the woman sat down at a chair right near the front desk.

The woman behind the counter then told her that the chair she was in was not the waiting room, and she pointed to another set of chairs about 15 feet away that was apparently the waiting room. If it wasn’t so insensitive, it would have been similar to the scene in Meet The Parents where Ben Stiller is told to stand behind the line and wait for his row to be called.

By this time we were on our way out, but my guess is that by the time that older woman reached her chair, she was probably going to be called back to the desk for assistance.

Needless to say, I was appalled at the lack of concern anyone working at this doctor’s office showed for the patients. Now it may be that the doctors are all top notch, but we never got a chance to find out.

Those women behind the desk were the face of the organization, and they certainly left a very poor impression on me.

And to top it all off, since we had used valet parking, now we had to wait to get our car. It would have been much faster if I could have just gotten the car myself.

When we got home, my Aunt tried to make a new appointment, but the earliest she was able to get was June 8. As a result, she decided to start trying other places, which I was more than happy to encourage. She was able to make an appointment for this coming Monday at another doctor’s office which seemed to empathize with the pain she was in and do everything they could to get her in as soon as possible.

I am sure at this point my Aunt has no desire to ever go back to the office where we were at today. Such a decision is not based on the level of care she received, but on the lack of respect and concern she was shown by the front desk personnel.

You can’t hide poor customer service behind technology and expensive furniture.

I think the fix for the doctor’s office is simple and free; train the people at the front desk to take a moment to acknowledge and empathize with everyone that walks in. They are at the doctor’s office because they’ve got a problem, and showing some concern would mean a lot.

(You may be thinking, why do you have to train people to act like that, shouldn’t that come naturally – my thoughts exactly – but apparently not).

I also learned the fix is pretty simple on our end to; check the time of your appointment the night before…

*Please note that the image above is not of the facility I was at today, but just one I found using Google. But you get the idea.



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